WeMartians Visits Falcon Heavy

February 5, 2018

Almost seven years ago, Elon Musk revealed the Falcon Heavy rocket at a small press conference in Washington, DC. It was a rocket whose idea sprung from a customer request seven years before that. And tomorrow, it may finally launch. Yes, it’s been a long time coming for what will become the most capable rocket flying today. But patience is a virtue, and for those of us following along, the reward will surely be sweet.

The WeMartians Podcast has been following Falcon Heavy since its first episode. Back then, the line between the Heavy and Mars was more clear; SpaceX planned to launch many Red Dragon spacecraft to Mars’ surface during the next few launch windows. But while the Red Dragon mission was cancelled last year, this is still a very important rocket for we Martians.  And thanks to the generous support of our Patrons on Patreon, we’ll be there to watch it fly for the first time, first hand.

What does Falcon Heavy have to do with Mars?

Falcon Heavy has just a handful of customers on the manifest today. Following the demo flight tomorrow, it will launch the Space Test Program-2 flight for the Department of Defense sometime this year. STP-2 will feature a cornucopia of payloads and will be a true test of the rockets capabilities. But after this, there is only Arabsat 6A and a potential Inmarsat-6 satellite, whose launch dates have not been announced yet. Following the demo flight, we may see more customers sign on, but for now this is it.

The Falcon Heavy rocket completes its static fire testing at Cape Canaveral.

The Falcon Heavy rocket completes its static fire testing at Cape Canaveral.

But to this show, the Falcon Heavy represents something bigger. Falcon 9 has done a tremendous job shaking up the market by offering high launch cadence, low cost access to space. But its payload capacity limits it to low earth orbit and geosynchronous satellites. It has only ever launched one payload beyond GEO, the DSCOVR satellite for NASA in 2015, a small 570kg payload to L1, about 1.5M kilometres from Earth.

Falcon Heavy promises to bring a whole new payload class into its reusable, low-cost world. It positions SpaceX to be able to compete for larger classified payloads, larger GEO satellites, lunar missions for Deep Space Gateway, and even smaller payloads to Mars. It’s hard to understate how valuable it is to lower the cost of access to space. It’s also hard to predict the cascade of benefits that will come from it. Suffice it to say, Falcon Heavy could continue to disrupt the market in ways that will be positive for everyone trying to put things in space, Mars or not.

So what can you expect from WeMartians?

I flew down to Florida yesterday and am spending today getting affairs in order. As a Canadian, I have some extra steps to take care of in getting my media credentials and didn’t want to slow my companions down, so the extra day is helpful. After arriving yesterday, I wasted no time getting indoctrinated in American Life by watching the Super Bowl with fellow space podcaster Brendan Byrne, host of Are We There Yet?

This morning I’ll be meeting up with Anthony Colangelo, host of the Main Engine Cut Off Podcast and co-host with me on our joint project, Off-Nominal. We’ve got hotels to check-in to, press credentials to pick up, and (hopefully) some photos to take at LC-39A. I’ll be sharing what I can on Twitter (@we_martians), so follow along if you aren’t already! I expect to get some bonus content for Patrons done as well.

The launch pad of LC-39A with the SpaceX hangar in the foreground.

Launch Complex 39A, currently leased to SpaceX by NASA, where Falcon Heavy will lift off from. Credit: NASA

Tomorrow is the big event. There is a three hour launch window opening at 1:30PM EST (10:30AM PST). A backup opportunity exists the next day. We have plans for streaming, tweeting, and recording all the audio we possibly can.

Following the launch, we hope to record a session of Off-Nominal in person before flying home. WeMartians will come out the following Tuesday, giving me enough time to process the week, assemble the audio, and create an episode worth listening to.

What if I want to get primed?

If you haven’t already, you should check out Episode 35 with Brendan Byrne and Emilee Speck. In addition to talking about all the fun Mars stuff to expect this year, we go in to Falcon Heavy pretty deeply. It’s a great way to get excited and get ready for the launch! Otherwise, follow us on social media as we head down to the Cape. And hey – if you’re a listener and are heading down yourself, send us an email or a tweet to let us know! We’d love to meet up and chat!

We could not be more excited for this trip! Go Falcon Heavy!

Wear Falcon Heavy and support the trip!

Trips like this aren’t free, unfortunately. And while our patrons do a lot to help us get there, it won’t cover all the travel expenses. If you’re as excited about Falcon Heavy as we are, why not help us out by picking up one of our great TWENTYSEVEN T-shirts? They’re available on our shop for reasonable prices and ship everywhere in the world. Wear a rocket, support a podcast. It’s win-win.



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